“Do what makes you happy.” That seems to be the anthem of our age. We seek out the experiences, the treasures, and the pleasures of this world hoping that they will satiate our desire for meaning and for a while they may, but it never lasts. Like a drug, they give us a temporary high but then we begin to come down and we start searching for our next fix. We think: “maybe the next time the next possession, accolade, pleasure or relationship will finally fulfill me in a way none of the others before them have.” According to Solomon, living this way and enjoying all this world has to offer, will never truly satisfy us because, in the words of C.S. Lewis: “we were made for another world.”
Since 1989, NBC has run a series of public service announcements called “The More You Know.” The goal of these short segments is to provide a piece of information that will make people’s lives better. We often operate under the assumption that the key to a better life is more knowledge, but is that true? There may not be a better person to explore this question than Solomon, the man who is known by many as the wisest man to ever live. Solomon’s conclusion is this: while wisdom is better than foolishness, it often brings with it its own sorrows and frustrations. At the end of the day wisdom alone is not enough to make life matter or to make life meaningful.
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says that there should be a difference in his followers that radiates out to the world in such a way that people see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven. Our lives should be a walking billboard for the goodness of God and the difference Jesus makes. If we are going to be the type of people who shine bright for Jesus this year there are things that we are going to need to put off and put on: in the way that we speak to and about others, in the ways we go about our work, and in the priorities and passions that drive us.
If we are going to be the type of church that God wants us to be, if we are going to have the type of friendships, families, and marriages that God desires for us to have, it’s going to requires putting off and putting on in the areas of communication and conflict resolution. To love others well we need to be people who put off deception and put on truth. We need to be those who put off resentment and slander and instead put on the boldness to speak directly with others. People who use our words to build up rather than tear down and who replace bitterness and a judgemental spirit with forgiveness and empathy.
For many people a new year represents a new start. We commit ourselves to changing things, we make resolutions, we set goals, and we tell ourselves: “this will be the year.” Yet, by the time February rolls around, many of us find ourselves in the same place we were when the last year ended. One of the things that frustrates so many of our good intentions is a focus on either stopping something or starting something. In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul teaches the church that real change requires both stopping and starting. Real transformation looks like putting off AND simultaneously putting on. In fact, Salvation itself reflects this pattern of putting off and putting on where we not only repent of our sins, but we start a new life of walking with Jesus.
At Christmas we celebrate the immeasurable love of God shown to us in the incarnation. The staggering truth that the God who is holy, omnipotent, omniscient, just, self-sufficient, merciful, faithful, sovereign, and good took on humanity, being born as baby to ultimately demonstrate the immensity of His love by dying on the cross to save and redeem us. God is not only a God who loves us, He is the very source and standard of love.
On survey after survey when people are asked what they want most the answer they give is “to be happy.” Most of the world spends their lives perpetually searching for the next hit of happiness, but those hits always seem to fade. There is however a joy that is available to us that never ends and never fades. A joy that transcends circumstances and can be had even in the midst of suffering and that joy is found in knowing a God who is good. Good in all that He is, and good in all that He does.
We live in a world wracked by anxiety and animosity by worry and war. In a world like this where can we find true peace? In the knowledge that our God is sovereign. That He is the one who is ruling and reigning over all. The one who is just and merciful and faithful is also the one who is in control of all things, even when it seems like everything is spinning out of control. If you are in Christ, God has chosen you, He lives in you, and He is working out a plan that will one day see you live with Him for all eternity.
God is infinite. He existed before anything or anyone else. He alone is uncreated. He alone is without any needs. As Father, Son and Spirit He even has perfect relationship within Himself, which means He did not create humanity because He was lonely or in need of companionship or love. God needs nothing! When He asks us to give, first ourselves but also our time and our treasure, it is not because He needs. Instead, it is an invitation that He extends to us for our benefit and good and for His glory.
Have you ever noticed that children seem born with a sense of what is “fair?” That’s because one of the ways we reflect God as His image bearers is in our desire for justice. God is just. In fact, in Deuteronomy 32:4 God’s Word tells us that “all His ways are just.” Justice is not simply something God desires it is core to who He is. He is the measure of justice and the one who ultimately metes out justice. God’s justice is ultimately seen most clearly on the cross. Because God is just, sin must be paid for, there is no other option. The only option is whether we accept the payment Christ made or whether we pay the price ourselves.